Bagpipes and Chanters

Highlander bagpipes - Bagpipes are woodwinds, related to flutes, clarinets, oboes and similar instruments. Although many variations in construction were used, common to all bagpipes were a wind bag diaphragm made of sheepskin, a wooden blow pipe for filling the bag with air, and a wood chanter (similar to a simple flute) with which the piper would use to finger notes. The sound emits from the open end of the chanter and by one or more drone pipes attached to the bag. It is the constant drone note and use of the air bag that distinguishes the bagpipe from other woodwinds and helps produce its distinctive sound.

Medieval bagpipes - The bagpipe in Medieval Scotland and England was believed to appear sometime early in the middle ages. Medieval bagpipes were originally a peasant's instrument, and were made from natural materials. The scale of these pipes is different from the standard Highlander pipes. Because the holes are small and closer together than on a standard pipe chanter, the fingertips cover the holes. Also: there are eight holes in a row on the top; a slightly different fingering is used than for great highland pipes.

Mediterranean bagpipes - Twin chanter bagpipe of Turkish, Greek or Arabic style. The chanter has 2 shafts mounted on a flare-shaped bell, providing both the drone and the note. Each shaft has 5 finger holes and its own bridled reed. Made in Pakistan.

Reeds - Practice chanters use a different reed than bagpipe chanters; the practice chanter reed is plastic, and the standard bagpipe chanter reed is made of cane.

Chanters - The practice chanter consists basically of the blowpipe and chanter from the bagpipes pipes stuck together to make a wind instrument (i.e., it's a set of pipes without the bag and without the drones). It comes apart in the center at the band; the double plastic reed is inside. Many practice chanters are made of wood and have a plastic mouthpiece; however, some are made entirely of high-grade plastic (these latter are not the cheapest ones). Wood is traditional, and is a favorite material with many pipers; however, it should be noted that the plastic has certain advantages: it gives a constant tone whatever the weather, with no expanding, contracting or splitting.


Practice and replacement chanters